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Miami Heat Control Eastern Conference, Detroit Pistons Aim to Contend

August 29th, 2013 at 7:00 AM
By Ira Luke

The Eastern Conference was full of activity this offseason and the Detroit Pistons was one team that was on a mission to upgrade the talent on the team. Last year, the Pistons were going through a youth movement which did not leave a good taste in the mouth of Team President of Basketball Operations, Joe Dumars. His team leads off the dissection of the offseason movement from teams in the East and how those moves will help them compete with the defending champion, Miami Heat.

Dumars was hard pressed to make a quick turnaround after the team's unimpressive 2012-13 campaign. Detroit finished the season with a 29-53 record and marked the fourth straight season that they missed out on the postseason. The additions to the coaching staff and the roster could make them able to contend with Miami.

After last season, the Pistons head coach, Lawrence Frank, was fired on April 18, 2013, after two losing seasons. Frank did not reach the 30 win mark in his tenure. The team scooped up Maurice Cheeks and made him their next head coach on June 10, 2013. Three weeks later, former Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace was signed to a two-year contract to join the coaching staff as an assistant coach. That was the beginning of a busy offseason for Detroit.

Detroit opened the free agency period by signing free-agent forward Josh Smith to a multi-year deal. His deal is worth almost $54 million over the course of four years. Smith joined the Pistons after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Hawks . He brings athleticism and defensive prowess to a team that could use more toughness on the front line to aid the development of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Smith is expected to start at the small forward position this season. He had a reputation for being disinterested in games and was not as consistent as the Hawks needed him to be especially as their "go-to guy".

The Pistons also upgraded their backcourt with the additions of former Finals MVP as a member of the team, Chauncey Billups and trading for Brandon Jennings. Billups was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract one day after Smith. He was brought in for veteran leadership and to give the team an outside shooting threat. The Pistons were in desperate need of someone to stretch the floor and help orchestrate the offense and "Mr. Big Shot" was the man for the job. While he could wind up starting due to the depth at the two guard, his age could keep him on a minutes limit. Billups is a guy whose points have come in bunches over the course of his career and leadership is unquestioned, which is a big reason he can help the team excel in 2013-14.

Motown's last piece to the free agent puzzle as the surprising sign and trade for guard Brandon Jennings. Jennings was acquired in a deal that sent Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Vlacheslav Kratsov. to the Milwaukee Bucks. Jennings led his former team to the playoffs last season after clinching the eighth seed and a meeting with the eventual NBA Champions. His scoring and ability to make plays give the Pistons a new dynamic they haven't had in quite sometime. Jennings will have to play more controlled in Detroit , which he has acknowledged the fact that he "wont have to take a bunch of bad shots because I have talent around [him]."

This team has added some parts that can help make them a threat to the Heat. They have added scoring and defense along with strong leadership that makes the sky the limit for Detroit heading into the season. They have a glaring need, which is in the three-point shooting department but they can turn to the waiver wire for veteran help or turn to Smith and Billups to hoist shots from outside. Billups has proven to be much more reliable from three point range but at his age he can't carry a team like he used to. If the Pistons are poised to make a run it will be because of their frontcourt whose size could present a matchup problem for the smaller teams like the Heat. Also, the team can have high hopes depending on how far Jennings can progress under the tutelage of brand new head coach Mo Cheeks

On Friday, reveals the number four contender in the Eastern Conference.


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Tags: Basketball, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons, Eastern Conference, Joe Dumars, Josh Smith, Miami, Miami Heat, Mo Cheeks, NBA

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